Mines Minister Kevin Minson said today approval to mine gypsum in the Lake Chinocup A Class Nature Reserve would prove vital in preventing the area being lost through excessive run-off and salinity.
Mr Minson said the landmark decision set a standard by which other similar catchment and reserve systems could be managed.
"The project involved a heads-of agreement signed between the miners - farmers Phil and Wendy Patterson and Paul and Diane Shiner, the local catchment management group and the Government resulting in money from the mining venture going towards rehabilitating the local farming land," Mr Minson said.
"Farmland surrounding the reserve faces a severe problem through large areas of water repellant clay soils which result in erosion, waterlogging and rising saline water tables," he said.
"This has meant a threat to the survival of Lake Chinocup and the surrounding farmland as well as lower agriculture production.
"However, gypsum used as a soil condition and stabiliser will play a major role in preventing further degradation.
"This will be done in conjunction with environmentally-aware farming practices and better land management."
Mr Minson said the only viable source of gypsum within a 90km radius of the area was in the reserve itself.
"Mining in an A class nature reserve requires the approval of both Houses of Parliament and the Government has been supported by the Opposition in this endeavour," he said.
"A significant gypsum reserve exists in a 70ha area on the edge of a salt lake in the reserve which could be removed with minimal environmental disturbance.
"Of the 70ha only 10ha will be mined.
"The Lake Chinocup Nature Reserve is 20,000ha in size."
Mr Minson said the proponents had undertaken to adhere to a rigid set of environmental conditions during the five-year lifetime of the mine including preserving a rare plant species, Adenanthos pungens, and revegetating the area.
"A nurseryman in the region has successfully propagated Adenanthos pungens from cuttings and these could also be used in the revegetating process," Mr Minson said.
The proponents will pay a bond of $10,000 per hectare mined to ensure it complies with the environmental conditions.
Mr Minson said the Lake Chinocup project was an outstanding example of local government, local community, the miner and Government working together to solve a problem.
"The final decision is a victory for commonsense and holistic environmental land management," he said.
"There will be substantial benefits to more than 70,000ha of farmland, including many areas of remnant vegetation.
"This, in turn, will help protect Lake Chinocup from further damage."
Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 9211